When Do You Use Baking Soda And Baking Powder When Baking?

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When a recipe fails, there could be any number of reasons why. It could be the recipe itself is not written accurately in which case you are not to blame. Measuring ingredients inaccurately as well as substituting ingredients can both lead to a recipe not resulting in the intended delicious dessert. 

One thing we do know is that some people are still confused about baking soda and baking powder. It's common for inexperienced bakers to think that baking powder and baking soda are interchangeable. Unfortunately, it's not. Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is an alkaline ingredient while baking powder is a mixture of ingredients that contain both an alkaline ingredient (usually baking soda) and an acid ingredient. It may also contain another ingredient, usually a nonreactive or inert substance, that prohibits the two ingredients from reacting with each other in the box while in storage.

It's this additional ingredient that can put off measurements when making homemade baking powder. 


That's not all. 

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Baking powder and baking soda also have different weights. While 1 teaspoon baking powder may be the same in volume as 1 teaspoon baking soda, there's a weight difference. This is how each of these two ingredients weighs: 

1 teaspoon baking powder = 3 grams 

1 teaspoon baking soda = 4 grams 

It may not seem like much but since baking is a science, when you need more than one batch of any recipe, a difference of even 1 gram can put off your calculations. If you need 3 teaspoons baking powder for a recipe that you doubled and you accidentally used baking soda, the difference can be quite an explosion in the baking pan as it will rise much higher than you expected. That much of a difference can turn your dish, and thus your recipe, into a failure. 


Recipes that fail can be fixed, especially if the leavening ratio is off. So, how do you know which ingredient to use if you're trying to fix a recipe? 

Baking soda is an alkaline ingredient that needs an acidic ingredient as well as heat to make it active. This means your ingredients list should contain at least one ingredient that is acidic. Use baking soda when you have these acidic ingredients in a recipe:

  • • vinegar
  • • buttermilk
  • • brown sugar
  • • molasses
  • • lemon or calamansi juice
  • • regular or natural cocoa powder
  • • sour cream
  • • yogurt

These ingredients will react with the baking soda, making bubbles and it will also counteract the soapy taste that excess baking soda can give to a dish.   

If these and other acidic ingredients are not listed in the ingredients list, you can and should use baking powder instead of baking soda. 


Thinking about what to cook next? Join our Facebook group, Yummy Pinoy Cooking Club, to get more recipe ideas, share your own dishes, and find out what the rest of the community are making and eating!


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